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But can you say them out loud?

by John C. Parkin

The spiritual freedom of the “F” word…

Have you watched a young child playing? Or can you remember what was going on inside your head as a child? I’ve done both. I do the first regularly because I have young children. And the second because when I really relax I remember what it was like to be a child.

If I lie down and look up into a blue sky and listen to the sound of a distant airplane, it invariably brings up a memory from my childhood. Why? Because as we grow up we stop being fascinated by ordinary things. So when I do occasionally take pleasure simply in what’s around me, it reminds me of the last time I did that: when I was a child. This is what children do. They live in the miracle of existence. Everything is new and fascinating. They can enjoy the wrapping as much as the present . . . a leaky faucet as much as a beautiful lake . . . the smell of rain falling on dry concrete as much as the smell of baking bread. Read the rest of this entry »

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There is a part of my soul

That is like a child

Learning to walk again

For the first time

Again and again.

Those are my words.

Imagine living your entire life in fear, only you don’t realize you’re living in fear, because your brain is so fast at learning that it has figured out exactly the behaviors you need to do in each moment to keep yourself safe. It’s not that good at protecting you from physical danger, but luckily you are also surrounded by other people who do everything in their power to keep you from doing anything that might involve physical movement.

Since fear is constant, and your brain is desperately seeking ways to keep you out of danger, the proxy for safety is people liking you, people praising you, people having nice things to say about you. It’s the next best thing your brain has latched onto because there is so little kindness, so little softness, so little trust in your environment that you have to go foraging for scraps of these things wherever you can find them. You’re like a bottom feeder in the fish tank of love.

Luckily you have a lot going for you in many ways. You have a nice smile, a body that found ways to move in non-dangerous physical ways, and a brain so skilled at adapting that you can become almost anything you need to be in order to please the people around you. This has made you appear “successful” in many systems of your society – school, in particular. Read the rest of this entry »

“If you think you’re enlightened, go spend four days with your family of origin.” – Ram Dass

Lately I’ve been feeling pulled in many different directions. Before I blame this feeling on the imminent arrival of my parents to stay with me and observe my current life, I’m finally sitting down to write about (and perhaps discover with more clarity) why.

After a totally blissful July of following the music that was flowing from me – bringing with it new people, new places, new experiences, and new ways of being seen – I entered August with a renewed sense of awareness that I needed to be “working” on something. “My newfound sense of freedom and joy could not possibly be the truth of my life experience”, said an ancient part of my brain. “Life just can’t be that easy for you!”

I recognized those thoughts as ones I could choose to believe or not. I saw myself as an observer. I talked it out with my coaching buddy. She reminded me of how far I have indeed come on my path toward the Core of Peace I now know is my birthright and within me at all times.

And still, as I drive from one place to the next – from home to studio to the next place on my agenda – I can’t help but feel scattered. Like my energy is more diffuse than I would like it to be. I notice that my business card has four identities – musician, life coach, writer, and speaker. I now notice that this is symbolic of the fact that in my life I have never felt that it was enough for me to be just one thing – namely, me. I had compartments where I kept my identities and developed them diligently, but rarely did the boundaries of these containers spill into one another. Read the rest of this entry »

Such an interesting experience last night at the HAAAA mixer. I made a bit of a “melodrama” big deal out of preparing myself – bracing myself, really – for the event, since I had a chockload of memories from previous times in my life when I had allowed these events to “trigger” my hot buttons. I used to have complaint festivals afterwards for days and days with anyone who would listen!

So how did it go last night?

Not a big deal. Really neutral for me, neither terribly interesting nor terribly annoying. It was just fine. Some might say, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.” This was definitely not a “hell yes” kind of event. I did meet the real-life Jeff Yang, founding editor of A Magazine, one of the first glossy magazines designed for hip young Asian Americans back in the 1990s. It was like bringing back ancient history for him, since he’s now moved on to more mainstream things, working for a consumer trend market research firm and writing a column for the San Francisco Chronicle. I tried to convey to him a bit of the hero status he has in my mind, but it was obviously way beyond him.

Anyway, perhaps the greater value came from learning how much I truly longed to play my violin at the open mic I was missing in order to attend the event. I happily sped home on the 101, noting that I could make it home in time to get my violin, get to Angelica’s Bistro, and still have about an hour of the show to go. I was totally filled with excitement when I made this video just outside the entrance to Angelica’s.

Turns out the list was so full of sign-ups we didn’t finish until about 11pm, with no room to fit me in! I enjoyed the familiar faces, the ambience, and the feeling of belonging that I get from just being at our open mic. Chalk it up as another one of life’s pleasant surprises!

Tonight I’m attending the San Francisco launch mixer for the Harvard Asian American Alumni Summit this October 2010. Maybe it’s not brand new to have a separate Harvard Alumni Association just for Asian Americans. Somehow I’ve just heard of it now.

The truth is I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged to any organization calling themselves “Asian American”. At this point in my life, I recognize that I rarely feel a sense of belonging in any group that has a name or label. I’ve always felt most at home as a totally free, totally expressive unique concoction of my own, belonging partially to many groups but fully to none. I envy you if you’ve found a full sense of belonging somewhere in this world. Cherish it. Bask in that feeling. Be grateful for it every day that you have it. For those of you who, like me, have not yet found it, maybe it’s time to sit back and enjoy your lack of belonging!

Here’s a short video with some of my thoughts going into the event. I’ll be back here to tell you how it went!

A video with my initial thoughts on a topic that I feel will become a vast area of exploration and focus in my work.

For part two of the video, visit this link.

And for a written expansion on the ideas in this video, see my blog post at this link.

1. What delights you and brings you alive?
2. What breaks your heart?
3. What does healing look like?
4. What one life-affirming action will you do beautifully and consistently, with love?

These four questions, conceived by my Real Speaking teacher Gail Larsen, powerfully and succinctly capture the process of life coaching and personal transformation. They go to the heart of our own truth, and call us to look with clear eyes at what is etched in our souls.

For most of us, there is at least one of these questions we’ve been avoiding for most of our lives. It could be any one of them. Perhaps we have not allowed ourselves to want what we want, to feel the joy of being fully alive. Or maybe we have masked ourselves with a facade of “perkiness” and images of “happiness” which belie the deep caverns of unexpressed pain in our hearts. Even if we have done the work of facing our deepest truths, we can get lost there if we never look beyond these current realities into a vision of what our lives could be. And finally, all the dreaming and scheming in the world is no substitute for taking actions which are aligned with the truths we have uncovered and pointed in the direction of our brightest visions. Read the rest of this entry »

Tuesday night I continued my practice of saying “Yes” to life. I showed up at a Jazz Jam that someone invited me to after hearing me play at my gig last Friday with Randy Bales’ Chinese Melodrama.


I’ll always remember something said by the keyboardist who was in the group before I went on. Someone asked if he was disappointed in his performance. He answered immediately, “I’m never disappointed with a performance. I know it can always be improved, but I’m never disappointed. Especially when I get to play on a Steinway! How could that be disappointing?”

What an example of gratitude and acknowledgment of himself!

I was a little nervous showing up at something called  “Jazz Jam”, since I was carrying around the belief that “I don’t know how to play jazz”. It seemed to me to be a separate language, an insular club open only to members, and a totally separate skill set that I don’t have.

Funny how our beliefs are reflected back to us…

I sat down to watch the first group play, and Carl, the bass player who was to be in my group later in the evening sat down next to me. “So, do you play in the symphonies locally?” (He had heard that I was “classically trained”.)

“No,” I replied.

“And you’ve never played jazz before?”

“No,” I said.

“Well, I know how terrified most classical musicians are of improvising.” Read the rest of this entry »

“The quality of your life is directly proportional to the quality of your attention.”

My teacher, Silvia Nakkach, said this to us on several occasions throughout the past year at CIIS, during our journey of spiritual transformation through sound voice and music. It wasn’t until very recently that I started to appreciate the meaning behind these words, and how they applied not only to my life, but to every human being.

Have your ever stopped to consider, “What are you listening to?”

Today, two different coaching practice partners (yes, on the same day!) described to me their experience with noticing what they were listening to. I had sent a new tool several weeks ago to the first buddy – my Daily Sound Journal. The exercise was to choose a day in which you would decide to notice the sounds you hear, and to note your bodily reactions as well as thoughts that arise in response to the sounds.

I hadn’t gotten feedback from her until today, when she told me that as she consciously listened to the sounds she was hearing throughout a given day, she began to notice that there was very little silence in her days, and that she had very little choice over the sounds that she was listening to. This prompted her to make some immediate changes in her life that involved creating specific times of silence in each day, and being more proactive about choosing music to download for herself rather than accepting whatever was playing on the radio, for example. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m sitting here in a moment of deep acknowledgment. I just listened to the recording of my interview with Susanna Liller, creator of The Heroine’s Journey. It’s been such a hectic week of travel, ceremonies, meeting new people, taking some risks, and steeping myself in creative inspiration, that I haven’t had sufficient space and time to acknowledge myself along the way.

I finally opened the email and listened to the file containing the 50 minutes of conversation with Susanna and her community of heroines. I was both surprised and filled with pride to hear the clarity and power in my own voice.

Sometimes we forget to step back and listen to ourselves. We forget to enjoy who we are.

Listen to the interview here.

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